It's worth remembering that history derives from Middle English histoire, from Old French, from Latin historia, from Greek historiā, from historein, to inquire, from histōr, learned person. The same Latin root historia gives us story, as well: Middle English storie, story, from Medieval Latin historia, picture, story (probably from painted windows or sculpture on the front of buildings). Old Irish scél, plural scéla also means story, news, tiding, and yes, sometimes, even historical tales. History is a collection of true tales, stories, scéla, tidings, news, about the past. These are posts that true stories about the past.

  • History,  Literature

    The Renaissance Writing Tablet

    The first reference to a Renaissance writing tablet I remember reading is in Shakespeare’s Hamlet, just after Hamlet’s first meeting with the ghost wherein the ghost tells Hamlet that Hamlet’s father the king was murdered by the king’s brother Claudius, Hamlet echoes the ghost’s last injunction to “remember me” in one of his soliloquies: Remember thee? Ay, thou poor ghost, whiles memory holds a seat In this distracted globe. Remember thee? Yea, from the table of my memory I’ll wipe away all trivial, fond records, All saws of books, all forms, all pressures past, That youth and observation copied there, And thy commandment all alone shall live Within the book…

  • Celtic Art & Archaeology,  History

    1867 Stonehenge Pictures

      The image above, which was recently made public by the photo research company TimePix, is from 1867, and is part of the first known photographic sequence ever taken of Stonehenge. (There are older individual photographs, in the Royal Collection.) It’s from a book called Plans and Photographs of Stonehenge, released by the U.K.’s Ordnance Survey and written by the department head, Colonel Henry James.

  • Calendar,  History

    The Truth about Corned Beef

    Every year around St. Patrick’s day in the U.S. the grocery stores start putting corned beef brisket on sale, and restaurants and pubs add corned beef and cabbage to their menus as an Irish entrée. Unfortunately, corned beef and cabbage, even when accompanied by potatoes, is more American (or Germanic) than Irish; we’d do better to celebrate Irish cuisine with salmon or colcannon. Corned beef is not really very Irish, though it is very American (and Germanic). Pork was a staple of the Irish diet, particularly in the form of bacon. Historically, the Irish raised pigs for meat, and beef for milk. If you butchered a cow, you did it…

  • Celtic Art & Archaeology,  History

    Vindolanda Altar to Jupiter Dolichenus

    This past July a Roman altar dedicated to Jupiter Dolichenus was discovered in the excavations of the former Roman fort Vindolanda. Vindolanda is near modern Chesterholm, England, just south of Hadrian’s Wall. The altar, weighing roughly 1.5 tons, is carved stone. One side bears a relief image of a jar and a patera, a shallow dish frequently used in religious rituals involving sacrifice. The opposite side depects a male figure in Roman clothing standing on the back of a bull. He bears a thunderbolt in one hand, and a battle axe in the other. A third side bears an inscription in Latin. The text reads:   I.O.M. Dolocheno Sulpicius Pu…

  • Celtic Myth,  Games Fairies Play,  History

    Bridget Cleary, Sex, Death, Fairies and Other

    This is the third in a series of posts about fairies as other. I promised, in my first post, to concentrate on fairies as other, particularly in the context of sex and death, because, as MacAllister Stone notes “other is all about sex and death.” Last time I looked at the tragic death of Bridget Cleary, burned because her husband Michael thought Bridget was the victim of a fairy abduction. This time I want to look at the story of Bridget Cleary in the context of sex and death. In Bridget Cleary we have a woman who is seen as other, an outsider in her community because of her differences,…

  • Celtic Myth,  Games Fairies Play,  History

    Bridget Cleary: Fairy Intrusion in Nineteenth Century Ireland

    Are you a witch? Are you a fairy? Are you the wife Of Michael Cleary? —Children’s rhyme from Southern Tipperary, Ireland I promised in my first post on fairies as other to look at a fairy intrusion in nineteenth century Ireland, specifically, the fairy burning of Bridget Cleary. In March of 1895 Bridget Boland Cleary (Bríd Ní Chléirig) was a trained seamstress, with a good eye for fashion, who owned her own Singer sewing machine. She lived with her husband Michael Cleary and her father Patrick Boland in a small cottage in Ballyvadlea, Tipperary, Ireland. Michael, like his wife, was atypical in that he could read and write; he worked…

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  • Celtic Art & Archaeology,  History


    The BBC Web site is reporting the discovery of a 2000 year old carving of the British warrior-god Cocidius on Hadrian’s Wall, in Northumberland near Chester’s Fort. The language of the article, and of articles on the Web, implies that this “northern god,” as the BBC puts it, was Germanic. The carving, as you can sort of tell from the image, shows a figure with a shield in his outstretched left hand, and a sword or spear in his right; the sort of deity you’d expect Romans stationed in the cold hinterlands of Northumbria to favor. Cocidius is quite Celtic, and is in fact, British or Brythonic. His name contains…

  • History

    Wel koude he knowe a draughte of Londoun ale

    The ThamesPilot project is a cooperative effort from libraries and museums along the Thames river. The British Library and the ThamesPilot project have combined resources to create an archive about the history and cultures of the Thames river. Thames Riverside Pubs is one of their efforts. An attractive, browseable presentation, it offers a history of ale drinking and brewing in England, a history of pubs, and inns, and hostelryes, especially along the Thames, from the Roman era to today. There’s lots of interesting historical information about pub culture, and about brewing. The tour is image-rich and a useful resource for medievalists teaching about Chaucer, or for pretty much any literary/historical…

  • Celtic Art & Archaeology,  Celtic Myth,  History

    The Perfect Corpse: Nova on Bog Bodies

    Yes, it’s tonight, and no, I hadn’t heard about it before. But PBS’s science show Nova is airing a documentary on bog bodies, featuring Tollund man, described on the program’s web site as “the most famous bog body of all” (he isn’t). The Nova shows usually repeat so I expect there will be other opportunities.

  • image of a coin from the Iceni, showing a head with spiky hair

    Two New Irish Bog Bodies

    Both the BBC and the Mirror have articles about two “new” bog bodies. This has been a year for bog body announcements, apparently. The two bodies were found in 2003, the first was discovered in February of 2003 when a male torso fell off a peat harvesting machine in Clonycavan, near Dublin. The forearms, hands and lower abdomen are missing, probably damaged by the peat cutter. The second body, also male, was discovered in a bog 25 miles away in Croghan, Ireland. The details are being released now, prior to being featured in BBC Television’s BBC2 program Timewatch: The Bog Bodies is on BBC2 on Friday, January 20. Radiocarbon dating…